Hiking Mt Julius Caesar in California

Notes by piero scaruffi | See Travel resources | See Other California hikes

Mt Julius Caesar (4029m) is reached via Italy Pass after a long but not strenuous hike from the Pine Creek trailhead above Rovana. Drive to Rovana and then continue up to the end of the road. Park and make sure you take the trail to Pine Lakes/ Pine Creek Pass (next to the stable) and not the one for the Gable Lakes.

The trail quickly emerges from the forest and ascends steeply via endless switchbacks, passing by the tungsten mine. Then it passes the two Pine Lakes, the first one shortly after the John Muir Wilderness sign and a footbridge. After a long creek crossing (usually easy on rocks), make sure you don't take the left turn to Pine Creek Pass. It's about 10 kms to Honeymoon lake (3,169m). When you reach the lake, there is a sign to turn left for Italy Pass (if you miss this sign you end up on the northern shore of the lake). A use trail (usually well-marked with cairns) continues towards Granite Park. At some point it loses elevation and moves towards a little lake, then entering a vast meadow, bypassing a waterfall. The trail then starts climbing again. You cannot see Italy Pass but you can see the false pass to its left.

When the trail disappears, you can choose to climb the rocky hill in front of you (straight line, but you'll have to lose a bit of elevation after it) or to follow the drainage to a big lake. When you reach this lake, Italy Pass becomes very visible:

As you climb, you'll realize that there are actually two big lakes, not just one.

If you have taken the straight line, you will also see a lake on your right. That one drains on the Chalfant Lakes, and that's a more scenic route for the return trip, although a bit rougher after the last Chalfant lake.

Anyway, you reach Italy Pass via massive steps that frequently require zigzagging. Italy Pass is very broad. Aim for the right side. The ascent to Julius Caesar starts there. It is class-2 at worst. Just avoid staying too close to the edge because that gets increasingly harder.

Milestones (west to east):

  • Pine Creek trailhead (2,255m)
  • John Muir Wilderness sign: 1h40'
  • Footbridge: 2h
  • Pine Lake 1: 2h5'
  • Creek crossing: 2h25'
  • Pine Lake 2: 2h35'
  • Long creek crossing: 2h45'
  • Fork to Pine Creek Pass: 2h55'
  • Honeymoon Lake (3,169m, 11km): 3h
  • Big meadow: 5h
  • First eastern lake (3,600m, 16km): 6h
  • Italy Pass (3800m, 19km): 7h
  • Mt Julius Caesar (4029m, 21km): 8h


Pictures of these hikes
Weather at Italy Pass
Video from the top of Mt Julius Caesar

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